Friday, November 2, 2007

"Taking" a Coffee

In Italy, coffee is sacred. It is one of the few European countries that does not have a Starbucks! I think this is because Italians are more than a little particular about how they “take” their coffee. In fact when you want to have coffee in Italy, you say, Vorrei prendere un caffe. Literally translated, this means, I want to take a coffee.

This is not unusual. As I have learned the Italian language, they often use “take” or “make” where we use “have”. I think it is especially appropriate when it comes to coffee.

Bars in Italy, are where you usually have coffee. Most Italians have breakfast in “bars”, and that breakfast consists of a coffee or cappuccino, and a pastry. Cappuccino is never “taken” after 11:00 for Italians. Coffee on the other hand, is taken regularly and often. When you go into a “bar”, there is always a counter, and occasionally there are tables and chairs. Most Italians take their coffee at the bar. When you sit at a table and order there, it costs more. This is because you are paying for the service at the table. Tipping is not customary in Italy, but paying for service is, and it is included in the price of meals and table service items.

When you go into the bar, if you are going to take coffee at the counter, you must pay first at the register. You will be given a receipt which you take to the counter to order your coffee from the barista. The coffee comes in a tiny cup, and in the U.S. it is called espresso. If you have it with a dollop of steamed milk, it is called a caffe machiatto, which is my favorite. This strong thick coffee with sugar, will really get you going! Now the reason I think Italians say “taking” coffee, is because you drink the thimble sized cup by “knocking” it back like a shot of whiskey or a dose of medicine.

It’s just what the doctor ordered!

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